The Gospel readings this month spend a great deal of time talking about how we spend our money. In today’s passage, Jesus tells his listeners, “Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out.” And certainly in our culture, worth is inevitably determined in economic terms. We can get a pretty good idea about what’s important to us by looking at how we spend our money. The irony is not lost on me that in the middle of this heat wave that’s settled over Cincinnati, I have a shiny new iPhone but no air conditioning. Largely by choice, but still….
But we forget that how we spend our time is also a good indicator of our priorities. The time-management guru Stephen Covey is often quoted as saying, “No one on their deathbed ever said they wished they’d spent more time in the office.” Sometimes I find myself wishing I had more than 24 hours in a day to get to all the things I want to do. But if I’m honest, I find that I waste a lot of time on things that really aren’t worth the time and energy spent on them. The specifics will be different for everyone.
What’s a waste of time for one person might be an expression of creativity for someone else. I find driving around on a Saturday extremely stressful. My niece, on the other hand, goes for a drive when she needs to sort out her thoughts about something. And when I was growing up, one of my dad’s favorite outings was to go for a drive on a Sunday with no planned destination, but rather a sense of seeing what interesting places we might discover. I found myself thinking about those Sunday drives as I read the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.”
Abraham is held up as the supreme example of faith by the New Testament writers. He was willing to travel great distances geographically and take great psychological risks based only on the word of God. And in fact, his and Sarah’s attempts to plan and schedule the working out of God’s promise always led to disaster. We can learn much from our great father in the faith about the promises God has made to us for the working out of our lives.
Someone once said, “If you want to hear God laugh, make plans.” In these days of hyper-scheduling, we often discover the truth of this as we’re waiting for a car repair, dealing with a sudden virus that hits on the day of an important meeting or watching the rain wash away a long-awaited sports event. At times like that, we need to remember that what we spend our time doing is most significant not for what it produces but for how it transforms our souls and brings us into a closer relationship with God and with those we love. The next time you find yourself stuck somewhere that you hadn’t expected, forget your other plans and ask God to let you know what you might take away from the unexpected situation instead.
The Scriptures tell us the big stories of salvation: the covenant with Abraham, the exodus, the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. But Luke’s Gospel also reminds us that in the little things of life, we discover that God graciously gives us the kingdom of heaven. All we need to do is be open to making room for that gift in our lives. In small things, no less than in the great life-changing events, we can discover where our treasure lies.
And now I need to go knit a sock for my iPhone.